Thursday 22 March 2018

Killing that sparked riots 'by black cop'

A car burns following the shooting of a man in Milwaukee Photo: Calvin Mattheis/AP
A car burns following the shooting of a man in Milwaukee Photo: Calvin Mattheis/AP

Gretchen Ehlke

The black man whose killing by police touched off an outbreak of arson and rock-throwing in Milwaukee was shot by a black officer after turning toward him with a gun in his hand, the police chief said last night.

The chief and the mayor gave the account as Wisconsin's governor put the National Guard on standby in case of another round of violence like the one that rocked Milwaukee's mostly black northside on Saturday night.

Police chief Edward Flynn cautioned that the shooting was still under investigation and authorities were awaiting autopsy results, but said it "certainly appeared to be within lawful bounds".

Mayor Tom Barrett said a still image pulled from the unidentified officer's body camera clearly showed the gun in Sylville K Smith's hand as he fled a traffic stop.

"I want our community to know that," Mr Barrett said. But he also called for understanding for Smith's family.

"A young man lost his life," the mayor said. "And no matter what the circumstances are, his family has to be hurting."

Flynn refused to identify the officer who shot Smith but said that he is black. The police chief said he wasn't sure what prompted the stop but described Smith's car as "behaving suspiciously."

After watching the officer's body camera footage, Flynn said the entire episode took about 25 seconds, from the start of the traffic stop until shots were fired.

He said Smith ran "a few dozen feet" and turned toward the officer while holding a gun. He said it was unclear how many rounds the officer fired.

Earlier yesterday, Governor Scott Walker activated Wisconsin's National Guard, and 125 Guard members were reporting to local armouries.

Mr Flynn said they would not be deployed unless the chief decided to do so.

"I'm hopeful that won't be necessary," the mayor added.

Irish Independent

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